Preparing for a recent birthday brunch for one of my daughters who loves lox, I wanted to put out a nice lox spread with some Brooklyn Bagels, so I went about trying to find the best lox in LA. I reviewed Chowhound posts, looked for internet tips and prowled Jewish markets. The party was in the Valley so the list is Valley-centric.
This was an intense lox-a-thon. We did blind tastings, tasted at restaurants and ran around Valley supermarkets. Here are the results:
1. Tashkent Market. Tashkent is the Studio City Russian/Uzbekistani market adjacent to Dacha Russian restaurant. They have a wide range of cured meats as well as prepared food and freshly baked bread in the back room (note to self: I must come back to try that spread). The lox at Tashkent is fresh cut and they don't always have it in stock (Indeed, when we returned for the birthday, they were out!). The lox we had there was beautiful, subtly smoky, oily and fresh tasting, without the dryness that you so often find in packaged lox. The only challenge would be having enough left to put on bagels after people ate it right off the plate.
2. Rasputin's Market is another Russian market adjacent to a restaurant I previously reviewed, this one next to the Israeli mezze palace Itzik Hagadol in Encino. Rasputin's lox is a thick cut and a bit salty, but the thickness gives it a nice chew. It had nice clean flavor and a good fresh taste, but it wasn't quite as nice in taste or texture as the Tashkent lox.
3. Art's Deli. The lox at Art's is fairly mild but still has nice flavor. It has some nice oil in it without excess salt.
4. Costco. Costco's prepackaged lox was one of the most suggested by Chowhound along with Barney Greengrass (sorry Chowhounds, Barney Greengrass was not in the budget). Costco lox was the smokiest of the lot. To some in our tasting group, it was the favorite, though I liked the hand cut lox better. The texture was a bit dry, but the smoke was nice.
5. Banner Smoked Nova Scotia. Another packaged lox from Brooklyn, the Banner had very nice flavor with a good balance of salt and smoke (hmm, sounds like a whisky review), but the lox was too dry.
6. Acme Smoked Nova Scotia. This is another packaged lox from a Brooklyn company. We got it at one of the big Russian markets in the Valley. It was fine lox but not extremely memorable; the texture was better than the Banner but the flavor was less distinct.
What was clear from the tastings was that fresh cut lox won out over packaged products. The fresh lox tended to have a fresher taste and a nice texture, the packaged lox was almost universally saltier. Presumably, more curing is needed for a product that is going to sit on the shelf of a supermarket.
I should add thought that all of these products were good and any of them would find a happy place on your bagel.
UPDATE: As Michael E. correctly notes in the comments, I sampled both lox and Nova Scotia salmon. Though the definitions are sometimes blurred, lox is cured salmon while Nova Scotia is cured and then smoked. For my purposes, they were all going on a bagel, so the distinction didn't really matter. We were just looking for which would be the best for our purposes, but apologies for my inexact language in using "lox" as a catch all for the various cured salmons we sampled.